A cold, or upper respiratory tract infection, is the most common cause of illness in children and adults. A cold is a mild viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways, which can cause a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat and a cough. There are more than 200 different viruses that can cause the common cold. It is therefore not possible to vaccinate against the infection.

A cold will usually resolve without medical treatment, and appears more frequently during the winter months. This may be because people are more likely to stay indoors and be in close contact with each other.

Adults have between 2 to 4 colds a year, and children have three to eight. Because the immune systems of children are not as well developed, they are more vulnerable to infection. There is no need for bed rest if your child has a cold, as moderate activity is not considered harmful. It is also normal if your child does not feel like eating, as long as s/he drinks lots of fluids. Appetite will return as your child starts to feel better.

Did you know that cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under 6 years of age? Also, that cough and cold medicines should only be given to children aged 6 to 11 years on the advice of a Doctor, Pharmacist or Nurse Practitioner? Most people don't know this, but there are potential risks associated with these products for children. There are also no proven benefits in using cough and cold medicines in children, so why take a chance?

So, even though there is no cure for the common cold, you will be able to manage the symptoms of cold without the need for medication, in most cases. Decongestants and cough medicines will not help your child to recover faster and may cause side effects.

These treatment options have proved to be effective:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Get plenty of rest and resume normal activities only when you feel well enough.
  • Eat healthily: a low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day).
  • Vapour rubs can help to soothe the symptoms of a cold in babies and young children. Only apply the rub to your child's chest and back, and never to their nostrils, because it can cause pain and breathing difficulties.
  • Menthol lozenges may help to relieve the symptoms of a sore throat.
  • Nasal saline drops or sprays can help relieve the symptoms of nasal congestion in babies and young children.
  • Gargling with salt water can sometimes help to relieve the symptoms of a sore throat and nasal congestion.
  • Child-formula paracetamol or ibuprofen may be used to help relieve pain and fever in children.

See your Doctor if symptoms do not resolve within 2 weeks or if a patient:

  • Refuses to drink fluids
  • Vomits frequently
  • Complains of intense headache
  • Is pale and sleepy
  • Has difficulty breathing
  • Has a high fever that does not respond to paracetamol
  • Shows no improvement in 48 hours
  • Shows any other signs that you are worried about.

Prevention is always better than cure, so try contain the viruses that cause colds by doing the following;

  1. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, particularly after touching your nose or mouth and before handling food.
  2. Always sneeze and cough into tissues as this will help to contain the virus; throw away used tissues immediately and wash your hands.
  3. Clean surfaces regularly to keep them free of germs.
  4. Avoid sharing cups, plates, cutlery and kitchen utensils.
  5. Use disposable paper towels to dry your hands and face, rather than shared towels.
  6. As with tissues, always dispose of the paper towels after you have finished using them.

Vitamins/minerals/herbs Supplements may only be of value if dietary intake is inadequate.

  • Vitamin C is associated with healthy immune function.
  • Zinc supports immune function and may have antiviral effects.
  • Echinacea can reduce the duration of cold symptoms and assist in prevention of colds.
  • Garlic is reputed to have anti-bacterial properties, along with immune enhancing activity.
  • Astragalus may assist in preventing the common cold.


The following essential oils are suggested for the temporary relief of the symptoms of Colds (with the most effective appearing in capital letters):

  • Aniseed
  • Basil
  • Citronella
  • Grapefruit
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Myrrh
  • Orange
  • Peppermint
  • PINE
  1. MASSAGE: Blend any single listed essential oil or combination of several essential oils - 5 drops (total) to 10mL (1/3 fl oz) vegetable carrier oil such as Sweet Almond or Apricot Kernel. Apply twice daily to chest, upper back and throat with gentle massage.


STEAM INHALATION: In a bowl, containing one litre of steaming water, add 5 drops (total) of essential oil; cover your head with towel and inhale while leaning over bowl. Keep eyes closed.


  1. VAPORISATION: Add 5 drops(total) of a single essential oil, or a combination of several essential oils listed to water in oil burner.
  2. Follow the self-care techniques listed under Treatment Options.
  3. Ask your Devro-kem Pharmacist for additional, safe ways of relieving the symptoms, if necessary.
  4. Devro- Kem stocks a range of gargles and lozenges to relieve the symptoms of a sore throat.
  5. If your child has a cold and requires pain relief, please speak to any of our Pharmacists, also if you need help with administering saline nasal drops.
  6. Stop smoking and give your entire body a better chance, with a boosted immune system.
  7. Use a germicidal hand wash to prevent the spreading of viruses.
  8. Cough or sneeze into a tissue to contain the virus and dispose of it immediately. We also stock anti-bacterial tissues which are even more effective.
  9. Consider some nutritional supplements if the dietary vitamin intake is inadequate.
  10. Always remember, Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years of age unless specified by a Doctor.

Let's try our best at making this a cold-free winter. Apply these simple rules, and we're sure you'll enjoy this new season a great deal more. For any other advice or recommendations, please feel free to speak to your nearest Devro-Kem pharmacist any time – we love helping you find the best ways to ensure greater health and wellness. Always.